Italy TravelVenice’s Carnevale is Underway

Venice’s Carnevale is Underway
Published on Monday, January 25, 2016 by

VENICE, ITALY - FEBRUARY 27, 2014: Unidentified person with Venetian Carnival mask in Venice, Italy on February 2014. For only editorial

Carnevale in Venice is Italy’s biggest party. Alive with the revelry of costumed partygoers enjoying centuries-old traditions, during Carnevale, La Serenissima (the Most Serene) is anything but. This year, the festivities stretch from Jan. 23 to Feb. 9, Shrove Tuesday.

Like all other times of the year, the famous and beautiful St. Mark’s Square is the center of the action. To get the most out of your Carnevale experience, seek out events on the weekends – particularly the last weekend of the festival – and fully participate in the merriment by buying a mask.  Then, head out to the daily masked costume contest to see how yours stacks up to the pros. The contest is held Jan. 30 at noon; Jan. 31 at 2:30 p.m.; and Feb. 1 to Feb. 6 at 12:30 and 2:30 p.m., all in St. Mark’s Square; the finals kick off on Feb. 7 at 2:30 p.m., followed by a kids’ edition on Feb. 8 at 12:30 and 2:30 p.m.

The Festival of the Marias (Jan. 30 at 2:30 p.m.) symbolically carries out an old Venetian custom in which the Doge would offer jewels to 12 young women as dowry. The 12 women selected for the pageant don identical Venetian costumes and parade through Via Garibaldi and into St. Mark’s Square, where a winner is crowned. The 12 Marias close out Carnevale with the Svolo del Leon, a tribute to the lion (the symbol of Venice) on Feb. 9 at 5 p.m.

The next day, the Flight of the Angel recreates a tradition where a guest of Venice would fly Tinkerbell-style from the bell tower in St. Mark’s Square to the middle of the piazza to give an offering to the Doge. Today, the previous year’s winning “Maria” does the honors on a zipline. Also flying across the piazza in events on Feb. 7 are an eagle and a donkey.

Throughout Carnevale (Jan. 30 to Feb. 9 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.), St. Mark’s Square will replicate 18th-century craftsmen’s workshops, with mask makers, tailors, weavers and glass makers outfitted in traditional costumes, of course. Modern mask-making shops will also open their doors for a behind-the-scenes look at how the masks are constructed.

Most events are free, but the finest entertainment doesn’t come cheap – one of the most lavish masquerade balls, at the Palazzo Flangini on Feb. 6, sells tickets for 760€ with dinner and 350€ without. Note that hotel rates and restaurant prices rise during Carnevale season, and reservations can be hard to come by.

By Kathy McCabe

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